Saturday, January 9, 2022
True confession: Sometimes I start thinking of my word the day before because if I can have something in my head then I don’t feel so pressured to come up with one. Which is stupid and defeats the purpose of a word a day.
Here is how this game works: I wake up, I think something, feel something, am interested in something, notice something, and then a word makes itself known.
This isn’t a test and I don’t have to get the right answer.
When I woke up this morning a word implanted itself in my head immediately, and who am I to argue with my head, so that’s the word I focused on today. And believe me, I needed it.
The word is stillness.
Not quite silence, not quite solitude, not quite serenity, not quite presence.
Something I very much needed to be after a day/week/month/several months of pure frenetic activity.
Going like a mad person for the last few days was exhausting. That whole whirlwind thing I embraced? Yeah. Exhausting.
There is only so much of that a person can handle. I can embrace my whirlwind but still require a moment of stillness to prepare for the next one.
Last night I dreamed that I was making chicken salad. Like, a lot of it. There was no real point to the dream except for chicken salad. But when I woke up I felt super sad. Why was chicken salad sad? Who knows.
Dreams don’t have to make sense, do they?
Have you ever had a dream that sticks with you long after you wake up?
Regardless of the reality around you, a dream mood can affect your waking mood. I had a dream recently that Ralph was being some kind of jerk, don’t ask me to remember what he was doing, but it involved ignoring me, and I woke up mad at him. I had to literally tell my own brain that dream-Ralph was not real-Ralph and that real-Ralph had not ignored me and had done nothing to anger me.
I told him about that dream (like anyone really wants to hear your dreams) and how he was being mean to me. He laughed and asked me what he did. I said I didn’t know. Because it was just this feeling of something, and that feeling really wanted to hang on into my waking hours.
Makes you kind of question what “real” is, doesn’t it? So for [insert dream reason here], making chicken salad was very sad. And so that’s how I woke up.
So why do I mention this? Because seriously, is there anything more boring than listening to other people’s dreams?
I mention it because I woke up feeling sad. And the weather was rainy and gray with a mist of fog and a cloud sitting in the hills across from me.
So I stood by the window and as I watched the fog and the cloud, sad melted into stillness.
After the frenetic pace of… well, every day… I very much appreciated that stillness.
And then of course the church bells next door started clanging to let me know that it was 8:25AM on a Sunday and I asked God if He REALLY thought that those bells were an improvement over His glorious creation, and he assured me that yes, yes they were, and had those bells not rung I would have had no idea how to be holy at all.
But I digress.
Stillness is not really about noise. Though silence does help. It’s more about how you are than about what’s actually happening.
Stillness is a state of mind. It happens when you’re done running around getting pizza ready and when you stop trying to plan out the next 46 days and when you let go of the billion things on your to-do list.
It’s something I very much needed today and something that was worth focusing on.
So how well did I do?
Actually, not too bad.
The weather helped settle my mind early. So that set the mood for my word and for my mental state.
Thing to note: I don’t find “gloomy” weather gloomy at all. I mean, three weeks of nothing but rain can get a little tiresome but I quite enjoy an overcast day, a foggy day, a rain-beating-on-your-window day.
That wind was really something today.
It’s funny, but there isn’t much wind around here. It whips up when it wants to, and it can scare the crap out of you when it feels like turning into a tornado. But on a day-to-day basis there isn’t a lot of wind.
When we lived in Brigantine, there was almost never NOT wind. We used to lie in bed and listen to it moan and groan and roar and whine, and wonder how the heck the shingles weren’t blowing off.
To be fair, the shingles did blow off sometimes. As did the American flag out front. And it was so windy sometimes that you could barely walk down the street without fighting for footing.
I guess that’s what happens when you’re on an island that is completely flat.
Ralph wasn’t a fan, but I was. The more the wind roared, the calmer I got.
Not like, Hurricane Sandy levels of wind, when you feared a tree would blow through your window, but the everyday clamorous kind that’s more like a toddler who is absolutely determined that you will pay attention to nothing else.
I think it’s the “paying attention to nothing else” that is so serene.
I miss that wind. I never slept better than when the wind was threatening to de-vinyl the house.
Having no wind here except the whisk-you-to-Kansas kind is disappointing. I guess wind to me is like snow to Ralph. The thing we miss, that we’d cozy up to with a blanket and good book, if only it would let us.
So I was delighted to hear the wind this morning and it gave me a real sense of peace. (After I checked the tornado status and saw no concerns of any kind.)
I had things to accomplish today, and meals to cook and work to finish and exercise to do, but right off the bat I decided that I wanted to maintain that sense of stillness throughout.
And so I did.
There were moments when my brain kicked back up into high gear, but knowing that stillness was my word, I reminded myself to find it again.
Stillness is the opposite of busyness.
It doesn’t mean sitting around and doing nothing, but it does mean letting go of having to think do fix plan produce gain answer solve know explain try win reach perfect acquire.
There was stillness for me today in the fog and rain. Often, there is stillness for me in the natural world. I think we lose something, some fundamental part of our soul, when we go through a day without noticing the sun or clouds or birds or grass.
I tried to do that more today.
There was stillness for me in letting go of the “have-tos” and being content with whatever was.
There was stillness in pausing when I found myself racing against the clock to get dinner on the table at an imaginary designated time.
Too often I get lost in what I think “should” happen as opposed to what is happening.
Today I focused on what is.
It was rather refreshing.
I’m not good at this every day. I’m not good at this most days. But I think if I can be a little better at it, just a little bit, on more days, there would be more contentment and less… let’s call it “feeling constantly harangued.”
Whirlwinds have their place. And stillness has its place.
The trick is in finding the balance, exemplified in Buddhism as “The Middle Way.”
So after the day that was yesterday (and the day before and quite possibly the day before that….) today’s stillness brought a bit of balance.
And that’s all I need to remember sometimes.
I think maybe the best part of this whole thing is the fact that dream-chicken-salad started it all.
Now wait until I tell you about the dream I had about the decapitated head flying at me…..
Photo: the mountains as seen from my balcony, where fog and clouds often hang out.